News Brief

Spain Assembles Special Unit for Election Disinformation

Spain has announced a new special intelligence unit guard against possible cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns during several elections scheduled this spring.

According to El Pais, a prominent daily newspaper in Spain, the responsibilities and duties of the unit are still being worked out among officials from the National Security Department and the government, but the goal is clear: secure the nation’s democratic process against cyber-attacks and misinformation campaigns.

Spain will hold local and provincial elections as well as a vote for European Union parliament in May. It will also have a snap general election on April 28, called after right-wing congress deputies and Catalan separatist parties rejected the socialist government’s budget in February.

Identifying and fending off disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber acts are  among top concerns across European states as the EU parliamentary elections.

Spanish authorities have accused Russia-based actors of interfering with the Catalonian independence referendum in 2017, in support of the region’s secession plans. Russian bots and disinformation contributors did back the separatists, according to the latest Kremlin Watch Report by European Values, a Czech-based think tank. The study observes, measures and summarizes how the strategies and policies of the EU countries against Russian disinformation.

The Catalonia vote put the possibility of foreign interference high on Spain’s security agenda. In a speech before a congressional committee in October, Colonel Hernández García warned that so-called hybrid wars – “which use manipulation and threats on critical infrastructure” – are greatest threats to democratic states.

The security official, who has more than 20 years experience in cybersecurity, did not mention any potential malefactors by name, but he said that nation states are the most likely foe in disinformation and cyber wars.